If you’re popping open a bottle of bubbly for New Year’s Eve, make sure no one is injured by a flying cork.
A cork can explode from a champagne bottle at a speed of 50 mph, with enough force to put out an eye or cause permanent damage, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“Statistically, serious injuries from champagne corks are rare. However, when they happen, the results can be very serious,” said Dr. Russ McCaulley, optometrist at the 10th Street Eye Center in Great Bend.
“Even though we have good protection from the bone surrounding and protecting our delicate eyes on five sides, the unprotected front opening is very vulnerable to the high speed champagne corks that we may encounter on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “Permanent vision loss from a blunt force trauma like this is a possibility.
“Fortunately, I have never had to respond to an emergency involving a champagne cork. Let’s keep it that way and have a safe New Year!”
Some bottles of sparkling wine come with a warning on the label, reminding consumers to point the bottle away from themselves and others. That’s good advice, but here are some tips on how to safely open a bottle of champagne:
• Chill champagne to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. Corks are more likely to pop unexpectedly if the bottle is warm.
• Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from your face and guests. While doing so, hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire cage.
• You may want to place a kitchen towel over the top of the bottle, holding the cork through the fabric.
• Keep a firm grip on the cork so that it doesn’t fly away unexpectedly. Slowly twist the bottle — not the cork — until the cork is almost out of the bottle. Then, pull the cork out of the bottle slowly, countering with a bit of pressure when the cork is close to the surface.
• Never use a corkscrew or a wine opener to open a champagne bottle.
• When opening the bottle, do not shake it, as this increases the speed at which a cork leaves the bottle, (and wastes champagne).
• In the event that an eye injury does occur, seek medical help from an eye doctor immediately.
Another option is to leave the cork in the bottle and cut the top off with a saber.
The technique is called “sabrage,” and is usually done with a champagne sword specially made for that purpose. If any Great Bend Tribune readers do try this technique, we may have a new list of safety tips for New Year’s Eve in 2017.
In the United States, many people refer to any sparkling wine as “champagne.” But in order to carry that label in the European Union, the beverage has to be made in Champagne, France and produced using the méthode champenoise. While these rules are strictly enforced, sparkling wines such as Korbel’s, Cook’s and Andre are all made in California yet labeled champagne.
According to a blog post at vinepair.com (goo.gl/GJGvjK), this is due to a 100-year-old loophole:
“Finally, in 2005, the U.S. and the EU reached an agreement. In exchange for easing trade restrictions on wine, the American government agreed that California Champagne, Chablis, Sherry and a half-dozen other ‘semi-generic’ names would no longer appear on domestic wine labels — that is unless a producer was already using one of those names.
“If a producer had used — or abused from the French point of view — one of those names prior to March 10th, 2006, they could continue to use the name on their label indefinitely.”
The staff at Hejny Retail Liquor Store in Great Bend note that all sparkling wines are popular this time of year, with one of the best sellers, Martini & Asti, coming from Italy. Its origin makes it a spumante, rather than a champagne.
Cost and calories
Popular choices locally include Cupcake Moscato D’Asti and Cupcake Sparkling Red.
The price of sparkling wine in Great Bend generally ranges from $6-18 per bottle, but we did see a 1949 Lafite Rothschild reserve for $990 at one location.
Finally, for the health-minded imbibers, we checked the nutrition information on three popular brands of sparkling wines and found a 5-ounce glass contains 125 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of sugar. The beverage is 13 percent alcohol. (For cupcake moscato, the sugar and carbs both jumped to 16 grams.) Champagne is fat-free and cholesterol-free.